Matthew Proudfoot says Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ honest approach has created a healthy sense of competition in the squad.
Ahead of the Boks’ final Test on home soil before they depart for Japan at the end of the month, the forwards coach said he has noticed the difference in the work ethic of the players.
‘The competition for positions at the moment – not just for the 31-man squad to go to the World Cup – is incredible. The players are really pushing each other and competing for those positions.
‘I’ve enjoyed seeing how much effort the players are putting in, both on and off the field, and how they are keen to learn and put pressure on us as coaches.’
Commenting on the positive effect brought about by Erasmus’ honesty policy, Proudfoot noted that the players were made aware of when and where they would get game time, prior to the start of the Rugby Championship.
‘Everyone knew where they stood because Rassie was upfront with the players. Rassie decided weeks ago what the squads will look like with the exception being if there were injuries. Everyone knew that they would get a chance.’
With the Boks likely to field a much-changed squad from the one that beat Argentina last Saturday, a final opportunity to impress the management team will be presented to a few of the fringe players who saw little to no action during the Rugby Championship.
One member of the squad with few minutes under his belt in recent weeks is Lood de Jager, who according to Proudfoot has contributed significantly during training sessions.
Having returned from a lengthy shoulder injury against Western Province in a Currie Cup fixture last month, De Jager started against the Wallabies in the opening game of the Rugby Championship but was replaced after 67 minutes.
The 26-year-old then saw no action in the drawn Test with the All Blacks and served as a waterboy in the 46-13 victory over Los Pumas. De Jager is likely to get his chance in the Bok jersey this Saturday when the Boks host Argentina at Loftus.
‘The guys that played did an amazing job. They’re playing well and there’s healthy competition in this group. I must emphasise that healthy competition,’ said an excited De Jager.
‘All the guys are looking out for each other and I think that’s what helped us win the Championship. The fact that guys who haven’t been involved in certain match-day squads help the guys who are involved by preparing them well at training. This creates good competition in that sense.’
De Jager added that the Boks are expecting a physical challenge from Argentina this weekend.
‘They are coming here with a mission. I think they’re a bit hurt after last weekend, so they’re coming with something to prove. For us there are a lot of guys getting opportunities who have been on the sideline for a while. I think the whole team is really excited for this weekend.’
The Boks will play a final World Cup warm-up match against hosts Japan on Friday, 6 September before opening their World Cup campaign against the All Blacks on 21 September in Yokohama.
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